Programs designed specifically to support fathers in their role as parents are relatively new to the policy landscape. New services and programming aim to increase fathers’ positive parenting skills, appropriate discipline, effective communication, emotional support, and stress management. CFRP is building the evidence base for fatherhood programs and developing a comprehensive approach to supporting fathers.
A substantial body of research shows that children with involved fathers fare better across nearly every measure of child wellbeing, from cognitive development and educational achievement to self-esteem and pro-social behavior. Programs designed specifically to support fathers in their role as parents, however, are relatively new to the policy landscape. Fatherhood programs have evolved from focusing on a father’s financial support role to a more balanced approach that emphasizes healthy relationships, parenting skills, and involvement. State and federal funding for these programs now number in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year; however, few fatherhood programs have undergone rigorous evaluation. As a result, policymakers and program administrators have a limited understanding of their effectiveness. Recognizing this gap in knowledge, the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, Prevention and Early Intervention Division asked CFRP to develop a comprehensive approach to supporting fathers in Texas. CFRP is evaluating efforts to support fathers through classroom-based programming in multiple sites across the state (Texas EFFECT Fatherhood Program), assessing the evidence base for fatherhood programs in Texas and the country, and examining the extent to which the needs of fathers are being met by existing programs and services in Texas. This evaluation will serve to provide a deeper understanding and enriched evidence base for improving the welfare of Texas children and their families.
CFRP is partnering with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to better understand the unique challenges and needs of younger parents, paying particular attention to young fathers. Approximately 25 percent of women have a child prior to age 25. The rates for men are not as well calculated, however, the average age of becoming a father is between 26 and 27 years old and race and ethnic minority men and less educated men become parents at significantly younger ages than their white or highly-educated counterparts. Despite the high prevalence of young parenthood, relatively little is known about the specific needs of young parents. Even less is known about the needs of young fathers or the strategies that programs and communities can take to engage and strengthen these men. To fill this gap in the research, CFRP is examining the challenges that young fathers face in their role as a parent, how these challenges differ from those faced by young mothers and older parents, and the strategies and approaches that providers can use to effectively engage and serve young fathers. The study involves: 1) an analysis of existing data to identify the needs of young parents and the extent to which father involvement in parenting programs is associated with maternal and child wellbeing; 2) a series of focus groups with young fathers and mothers, and providers who serve young parents to determine the needs of young fathers and the strategies that are most effective for serving them; 3) adding an emphasis on young fathers to a state-level interagency coalition focused on fathers; and 4) the development of a series of trainings and online tools that providers and researchers can use to better serve and study young fathers.
Increasing fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives has become a focus of both federal and state-funded programs over the last decade and a half. One way to engage fathers is through father-specific, classroom-based programming. With federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, AVANCE, Inc. developed a fatherhood curriculum to serve fathers in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. AVANCE is a non-profit organization with over 40 years of experience providing family education and support services to predominantly Latino and African-American families in Texas. The curriculum promotes father engagement and involvement, co-parenting, and healthy relationship skills. CFRP conducted an impact evaluation and an implementation evaluation to determine the demographic and relationship characteristics of fathers who choose to participate in the AVANCE fatherhood program; the impact of the program on fathers’ engagement and involvement with their children; the impact of the program on fathers’ parenting, co-parenting, and relationship skills; and whether the effects of the program are similar for various groups of fathers. The findings from this evaluation advance the field of knowledge by providing rigorous evidence on the impact of a comprehensive fatherhood program on enhancing a father’s ability to be involved with and parent his child.
Although research shows that fathers matter for child development, there is a lack of father participation in home visiting programs and limited research on why and how fathers participate in the programs. CFRP is studying the factors and impacts of father participation in home visiting programs. The study supplements CFRP’s implementation evaluation and the family retention evaluation of the state-wide Texas Home Visiting program. CFRP aims to better understand what influences fathers’ participation in home visiting, including the family characteristics and program factors, to inform practice among the national home visiting community. Texas is the only state to use MIECHV (Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting) funding to specifically evaluate father participation in home visiting programs.